BORDER TOWNS

      aLNWICK 
  
    
Pronounced Ann-ick


Alnwick is a fine historic Border town which has much to offer. It is set against a backcloth of
the magnificent Alnwick Castle on the banks of the lovely River Aln, about five miles from the sea.Being midway between Newcastle and Berwick on Tweed, Alnwick was about a day's coach ride (about 30 miles) from either and so became an important staging post providing inns for the travellers.

Bordering the cobbled square are 18th century buildings and the remains of coaching inns, one of the which, the White Swan,  has the remarkable Olympic Room, created with materials salvaged from the Titanicís sister ship, which was broken up on the River Tyne in 1935.

A wander around the narrow streets and the cobbled square can be very rewarding. The Georgian and Victorian houses built by affluent merchants are particularly imposing.

In the centre of the square is the Shambles where animals were  slaughtered and the nearby arcades housed stalls selling the meat, farm produce, and all kinds are other goods.

Royal proclamations were read from the Market Cross  and a market has been held in Alnwick for 800 years. This was a privilege only granted by the king. The town still holds a medieval fair during the week beginning on the last Sunday in June.

Alnwick took its defences very seriously.  Not only was it enclosed by a strong wall almost all which has now disappeared but there were a number of outlying towers which served as an early warning system and as preliminary defence.

When peace came to the Borders, after the Union of the Crowns, Alnwick developed to the east and to the south serving a rich agricultural region. Much of the old walls and towers were dismantled for use as building stone and little now remains.  The Hotspur Tower, through which  you will pass if you enter Alnwick from the south has survived.

Known as the Hotspur Tower, the tower was in fact built long after Hotspur lived. It is the original south gate and the area was, at one time, considered for 'development.'
 
Fortunately, it escaped the hands of the planners.
 

  Click picture to enlarge. The Hotspur Tower 

The tower was, in fact, built long after Hotspur lived.
It is the last of four gate towers.
At one time, it too was considered for 'development' but fortunately, it escaped the hands of the planners.
 


The Percy family has for the past seven centuries been the foremost family in Northumberland and their influence can be seen everywhere. Successive Percys found themselves on the wrong side of the law but the family were great survivors notwithstanding the fact that on occasions they were accused of treason and had their lands confiscated by the crown. For centuries they were largely responsible for the security and well being of the people of Northumberland and they became very powerful. The castle was one of the greatest strongholds of the region providing a garrison, at one time, of 3000 men and has been occupied by the Percy family since 1309.

The most famous Percy, Harry Hotspur, immortalised by William Shakespeare, was so named because of his impulsive nature.


Sir Henry Percy was a knight of great fame.  Had he lived now there is no doubt that he would of been high up in the celebrity charts.  He was one of the last of the knights who lived by the unwritten laws of chivalry.  An encounter had to be arranged before a fight began, with such details as the time and place being mutually agreed before hand. There could be no devious or unannounced manoeuvres.  All moves would be made by the book. But times were changing.  People became less concerned with how they died and more with avoiding death altogether.  Any tactic that could outwit or deceive the enemy was employed in preference to a chivalrous death.

 

He was born in Alnwick Castle on 20 May 1366, and is renowned for his part in the Battle of Otterburn.

The London football club Tottenham Hotspur is named after the great Harry . The Percy family, not only owning a huge part of Northumbria, has holdings in London. 

                                              The Percy Lion

The Percy Lion is perched on the Lion Bridge crossing the River Aln north of Alnwick.   

In the 1980s the whole statue was plunged into the river when a truck crashed into the bridge.

On one occasion a boy sat on the lion's tail and the tail snapped off. Both the tail and the boy fell into the river below. 

 


Northumberland is reputed to have more castles and towers than any other county in Britain. Many of the castles, and a few of the pele towers, have been restored and are open to the public. 

Apart from the site on which they once stood and, perhaps, a few fragments of stonework, little remains of others.  Yet a visit can be very rewarding, if only to ponder over their historical past when they were mighty strongholds of note.

Many of the castles and a selection of pele towers are listed here. They all have Border family  connections and are all worth a visit - if you have the time, and there are many more waiting for you to discover.
As a bonus, there is the magnificent Northumbrian Coast with its many attractive coastal villages and long sandy beaches.

Hulne Park is a large area of natural woodland just north-west of Alnwick Castle. It is open to the public through the generosity of the Duke of Northumberland.

Here you will find peace, quiet and wildlife. There is parking alongside the lodge.

Within the grounds are the remains of 13th century Hulne Priory  and Brizlee Tower, an 18th century lookout tower. There are many other attractive features nearby, including the remains of Alnwick Abbey.

Coquet Island

The lighthouse was built on the site of an old pele tower and part of the stonework being incorporated in the base of the lighthouse. The adjoining buildings, including the cottages, are all of medieval origin.

You can take a boat trip around the Coquet Island from Amble. The island is famed for its abundance of birdlife.

 

Around and about Alnwick

Alnwick took its defences very seriously.  Not only was it enclosed by a strong wall almost all which has now disappeared but there were a number of outlying towers which served as an early warning system and as preliminary defence.

The following have survived and are all worth a visit:

Click to go to:      Alnwick Castle
                             Dunstanburgh Castle
                             Preston Tower

Also to:  Edlingham Castle

And to a splendid example of a fortified church:
               Edlingham Church


BORDER TOWNS INDEX